Kim Williams from Arkansas Tourism had a succinct summation of the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse and its anticipated effects on the Natural State when she spoke at Arkansas Tech University on Thursday, April 7.
“Arkansas has never seen an event like this, and likely will not again in my lifetime,” said Williams, who is employed as director of Arkansas’s Great River Road/All-American Road, a travel writer for the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism and project manager for the department’s 2024 eclipse preparations.
Speaking before an audience at ATU’s Witherspoon Auditorium and to those who joined through video conferencing, Williams said two-thirds of Arkansas will be in the path of totality for the 2024 solar eclipse and that all of Arkansas will experience at least a 94 percent eclipse of the sun during the afternoon hours on April 8, 2024.
Based upon data from total solar eclipses that passed over Wyoming and South Carolina in recent years, Williams anticipates 1.5 million visitors or more could visit Arkansas for the 2024 event.
Williams reported that during a similar event in South Carolina in 2017, 1.6 million visitors came into the state and made an economic impact of $269 million.
The Arkansas River Valley is in the heart of the path of totality for the 2024 solar eclipse. According to Astronomy magazine, Russellville, Ark., will be one of the top 10 places in North America to view the eclipse.
Williams advised that traffic management will be a foremost concern for local and state authorities. In addition, communities in the path of totality can expect their local infrastructure — everything from utilities and trash collection to gas stations and restaurants — to be stressed by the influx of guests.
Christie Graham, executive director of the Russellville Tourism and Visitor Center, was among several local tourism and emergency services personnel in attendance for Williams’ lecture.
Graham said that planning is already underway with local hotels, ATU, the Russellville Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Russellville, law enforcement and other local entities in preparation for the 2024 eclipse.
Williams’ lecture was organized by ATU faculty members Susan West and Cass Capen-Housley from the Arkansas Tech hospitality administration program.
Those who want to learn more about statewide preparations for the 2024 eclipse may visit www.arkansas.com/eclipse.
Additional eclipse information for Russellville and the Arkansas River Valley will be posted to www.eclipserussellville.com in the weeks and months to come.